Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Michigan to play Virginia Tech in Sugar Bowl

The Wolverines' hopes of receiving a BCS bid came true on Sunday, as they were matched with Virginia Tech for the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Of course, not everybody is happy about this. Fans of most college football teams are a little more upset at Virginia Tech for "back-dooring" their way into a BCS bowl. Other at-large choices for the Sugar Bowl included Boise State, Kansas State, and TCU. They were passed up, however, for Virginia Tech; some believe because Virginia Tech is a "name" program.

"In a football sense, it's tough to argue for the Hokies against some of the other teams in the at-large pool, especially after the 28-point loss to Clemson Saturday night," wrote a Virginia Tech blog. "Fortunately for Tech, bowl games are rarely about football. The only bowl game that matters, truly matters, is the national championship game. Every other game is about selling tickets, filling hotel rooms and drawing TV ratings. These are glorified exhibitions. Virginia Tech has a history with the Sugar Bowl that proves they will do exactly that."

MGoBlog's Brian doesn't see too much peril from Virginia Tech in the match-up, though the Wolverines are 2.5 point underdogs. "The Hokies haven't lost to anyone other than Clemson (in dual blowouts) but also haven't played anyone else," wrote Brian. "They played no BCS teams in the non-conference and their ACC schedule contains no opponent with more than eight wins." The Hokies are 11-2.

And predictably, Michigan State fans are unhappy. The general consensus around the Spartan faithful is that Michigan State deserves to go to a BCS bowl because it beat Michigan and played in the inaugural Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin. The Spartans lost that game but still feel that they are more deserving than Michigan, and it's not fair that they don't get to go when Michigan does.

Forget the fact that Michigan beat Notre Dame and Nebraska, two teams that handily trounced the Spartans. Michigan State primarily argues that, in its head-to-head match-up with Michigan, the Spartans won. Thus, they claim, they should go to a BCS bowl.

"Michigan sat at home tonight on the couch and watched us," Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins, normally a classy guy and one who isn't fond of complaining, reportedly said after Michigan State lost to Wisconsin, knowing that his team would probably not go to a BCS bowl. "I don't see how you get punished for playing and someone else gets to sit on the couch and get what they want. If this is the way the system is, I guess it's a broken system."

These types of statements are par for the course in college football, especially from teams who don't get what they want. Those who do are often quietly content. Chris Petersen voiced his complaints when Boise State, who is not in an AQ conference, did not receive a BCS bowl bid despite an 11-1 regular season record.

"I'm really tired of the BCS, even the name," Petersen recently said at a press conference. "I think everybody is just tired of the BCS. Everybody's frustrated. I don't think anyone is happy anywhere…The whole thing needs to be changed, there's no question about it…Nobody likes it, nobody understands it, everybody thinks it needs to be changed, so hopefully it will be."

Michigan's Sugar Bowl opponent, Virginia Tech, caught a lot of flak because the BCS picked them over someone else (Kansas State, TCU, Boise State). Yet the arguments for Virginia Tech are plausible enough. The Hokies have a solid fan base and a good following, and they usually travel very well. They also have made several trips to the Sugar Bowl, a history that no doubt played a factor in their selection.

It should be noted that the BCS is often misinterpreted as a playoff, where a team's merit determines their status. In reality, it is more about creating exciting match-ups. Michigan and Virginia Tech are two historical programs who would generate a lot of interest.

That isn't to say that Michigan or Virginia Tech or anyone should or does play in a BCS bowl by name brand alone. You have to qualify as an at-large team. In order to Michigan to be eligible for the Sugar Bowl (or any BCS bowl), it had to crack the Top 14. That usually happens when teams lose their championship games. Georgia, for instance, lost to LSU in the SEC championship, dropped in the rankings, and is set to play Michigan State in the Outback Bowl in the battle of the runner-ups.

However, Michigan State's main gripe against Michigan playing in the Sugar Bowl is less a statement about the BCS (as they would have you believe) and is more about bitterness towards their rival, which is to be expected. If Purdue was 10-2 and had a BCS bowl bid, Michigan State fans would not be anywhere near as bitter. It is only because Michigan got to the Sugar Bowl that they are now complaining—even when it was predicted to happen weeks ago. Spartans typically, and bizarrely, judge their success almost entirely on what Michigan does—or, in this case, where Michigan goes. They don't (and perhaps they can't) see themselves as a good team in their own right. They went to the Big Ten championship. Michigan did not. Still, that is not enough.

Michigan's players Ryan Van Bergen and Kevin Koger were asked what they thought about Kirk Cousins's comments about Michigan not being worthy to play in a BCS bowl. "If he wants to be able to sit on the couch and watch us play in the Big Ten championship game, then he can do that," Van Bergen said. "We would have loved to trade places and have that chance and have that opportunity. All complaints aside, they had an opportunity to the Rose Bowl sitting right in front of them to grab, and they didn't seize the opportunity. I think they'll do well in the Outback Bowl, but best of luck, best wishes—we're going to the Sugar Bowl, and we're excited about it."

"We did get to recover a little bit, but I'd rather play in the Big Ten championship game," Kevin Koger added. "I mean, the inaugural Big Ten championship—that says a lot of about the teams that played in it. We'd be happy to trade places, but it is what it is."

The game is set for January 3, 2012, at 8:30 p.m.

It will be the first time Michigan has ever played Virginia Tech.

No comments:

Post a Comment